When Laine Hardy returned home to Livingston, Louisiana after being kicked off American Idol Season 16 in the second round, he was disgusted, discouraged, but inspired. For a couple of days, he drowned his sorrows in his favorite fishing spot on the river, spent time mud-ridin’, speed boatin’ and getting the loss off his mind. It was hard, and the young Laine had a determination not to let this be the end of his career or to crush his dreams for success. He knew it was just the beginning.
Up for the challenge, he just dug deeper, and he began booking shows on top of shows and traveling each week to another venue to develop his voice, sharpen his stage presence, build his confidence, working himself into the artist he knew he could be. He spent more time writing songs, and recorded “On the Bayou”, in May of 2018, followed by “Blue Christmas,” later that year. Both were well received, and those Facebook fans and Instagram followers began to grow even larger in numbers.
In his preteens, Laine had scraped his front teeth in a dirt bike accident, so now was the time to have those refinished and replaced. The bright white new perfect pair of teeth added just the finishing touch to the young 18 year old who had strengthened his talent with guitar and singing lessons, as well as a year on the road of performing. He felt he was about to enter the next phase of his career. He was definitely ready now – but for what?
When his family friend, Ashton Gill, asked Laine to accompany her on her American Idol tryouts in Idaho, he was hesitant, but as her friend, he certainly had to say yes. And off they went. He had no idea he would be auditioning; didn’t even think that was possible in the Idol rules, so he entered the room with her, his guitar in hand and a LAINE cap on his head.
When the judges discovered Laine was there, they jumped up and starting hugging and carrying on. Katy first noticed the grill (his beautiful new teeth) and Luke started in on him about having his own merch, items to sell with his name on them. Back home his mother Cindy had set up a website some time ago where they sold Laine shirts, Laine guitar picks, Laine caps, and of course, Laine CD’s on-line and at venues where the band played. People wanted anything Laine.
Remembering it was Ashton’s moment, not Laine’s, the judges pulled themselves together and sat down while she delivered a beautiful short rendition of “Broken Halos”. There were several varying comments, but it was good enough to take her to Hollywood. Luke liked her country sound, and she earned her golden ticket with all three votes.
Then the judges began urging Laine to play, to sing, to show ‘em what he had learned since last year. Reluctantly, the shy young man smiled as Katy Perry, said “I missed your voice,” and he started into The Weight. By the second line, all three judges were on their feet, singing along with the young man who now was in full grin mode.
Lionel started first, “Take it,” and Laine resisted as the others began their pretend begging which became, “Come on Laine, just reach out and touch” as they waved the golden ticket back and forth in front of him. Laine agreed with them, “It’s shiny,” and everyone continued to chant, “Take it.” Laine bit his thumbnail and looked downward, a habit we would later see many times, as he said, “Come on Y’all! Y’all! Y’all!” three times, then reached out and said “OK,” grabbing the golden card. As he and Ashton went out the door Laine hesitantly turned back and quizzing asked, “Am I really going?”
It had not sunk in yet.
Next chapter #4 – Leaving Louisiana – Laine Takes Hollywood